Michael Lease, an instructor of photography at Frostburg State University, is donating two handmade photo books featuring scenes of Frostburg as gifts to the people of Frostburg. One copy will go to the Frostburg Public Library and another will be housed in FSU's Lewis J. Ort Library.
In May 2002, after six semesters of teaching photography at FSU, Lease approached two of his students with the idea of creating a book of photos to capture the character of Frostburg. One was Greg Auldridge, a senior accounting major with an intense interest in photography who was preparing to graduate in December. The other was Kim Wolfe, a junior pursuing major in fine arts with a concentration in photography. Both were available for the summer project.
"It was something I'd always wanted to do," Lease said. "It was a way to document my home by taking these images before I leave. And it was time to give a gift to Frostburg as a way to thank the people of the city for accepting me into their citizenry." After living about 10 years in Frostburg, he will move on next fall to pursue a master's degree in photography and film at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.
Entitled "Frostburg: Document 2002," the 15.5-inch by 22.5-inch books are bound by hand, with watercolor pages displaying 70 photographs between covers of colorful rice paper. With no captions or credits, the images of scenes and people speak for themselves as testimonials to small-town life. The only text is found in a brief afterward. A total of five books were created, with one for each photographer in addition to the two donated copies.
"It looks like a day spent walking through Frostburg," Lease said.
The "day" begins early on Grant Street and comes full circle to end there after dark lit by a full moon. This final shot won First Place Black & White Photo in the Allegany Arts Council's recent 10th Annual Photography Exhibition. Along the way, the viewer can spot such local landmarks as Main Street Books, the Princess Restaurant, Frostburg U-Save, the former A & K Consignment Shop, Failinger's Hotel Gunter, the summer Farmer's Market, Alley #50 and Gandalf's.
"We see the book as fitting in with the tradition of documentary photography that was done decades ago by Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans and Leo Beachy, who comes from Grantsville," Lease said.
Each photograph is a personal statement that captures the photographer's individual perspective on the significance of a given scene. Lease, Auldridge and Wolfe used controlled lighting, artful composition and technical wizardry, plus attentive developing by hand, to create each image. The three photographers intentionally remain equal in their representation and anonymity throughout the book, which effectively increases the collective impact of the photos.
The Frostburg Public Library will keep its copy on a table for public viewing. The copy in FSU's Ort Library will be available in Special Collections by appointment only.
For information, contact Lease at (301) 687-4354 or firstname.lastname@example.org.